Temptation, 17 October 2021

Series—Faith Works: The book of James
James 1:13-18

Series Big Idea:
Jesus’ half-brother James offers us timeless instructions for living a God-honoring life.

Big Idea: God is good, the giver of every good and perfect gift.

Today we’re back in the book of James, arguably the most practical book in the Bible. In between Global Missions Sundays and Advent, we’re going to continue going verse-by-verse through this short but powerful book. As a refresher, James is believed to have been written by Jesus’ half-brother who went from a skeptic to one of the leaders of the early Church. Dr. Tony Evans says, “James is the in-your-face, no -holds-barred apostle. He says in essence, ‘If you are going to be a Christian, be a real one.’”

I couldn’t agree more. The reputation of Christians in our current culture is…tragic! Instead of being known for faith, hope, and love we seem to have a reputation for politics, ignorance, and arrogance. We need real Christians, men, women and children who speak the truth in love, who are strong and courageous, who lead rather than follow, and whose hearts are set on the LORD Jesus Christ. It’s not about how much you know. The Pharisees were among the most knowledgeable people of their day, yet they missed the forest through the trees. Not only did they not look like Jesus, they had him killed!

Are you a Christian, a
real Christian? The short book of James is a great litmus test.

We looked at the first twelve verses of the book several months ago and James’ writings about trials. Trials are right up there with death and taxes as certainties in life. We all experience them, yet we are to consider them “pure joy” because they test our faith, producing perseverance and maturity. Verse 12 says,

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

We all want to be blessed. I usually sign my e-mails, “Blessings, Kirk.” It’s not one of those automatic signatures, but something I manually type each time. I truly want to bless others. I want you to be blessed. I want God to bless you…not only when you sneeze!

We often think of blessings as a new car, a promotion at work, or an attractive mate, but blessed or “happy” as some translations say is about our ability to experience, enjoy, and extend God’s goodness. It’s not about what happens around us as much as what happens internally, our ability to experience joy and growth.

There’s a big difference between trials and temptations, though they come from the same Greek word, peirazo. God allows trials to strengthen us. Athletes often compete in “time trials” which are races designed to test their abilities. In doing so, the runners are challenged and strengthened.

Temptation comes from satan who tries to cause us to fail. God’s testing and satan’s tempting can occur in the same event, but
God does not tempt anyone, though He allows trials.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; (James 1:13)

I think that’s clear. God does not tempt anyone, nor is He tempted by evil…though Jesus was tempted while on earth before his death and resurrection. Notice the progression that occurs:

but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)

Satan tempts through desire which leads to sin and death.

Satan cannot make you sin, but he can tempt you. He hates you and wants to destroy you…or perhaps wants you to destroy you! Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Do you see the contrast?

Family, we are engaged in a spiritual battle. We have a very real enemy. He knows your weaknesses. He knows how to appeal to your desires, leading you into sin and death. He’s very good…but God is greater!

We’ve all heard countless stories of leaders—inside and outside of the church—who have had moral failures. I doubt any of them ever thought, “Someday I want to have an affair and destroy my marriage, family, and career.” It all began with a desire and rationalization which led to sin and ultimately death…the death of their integrity, reputation, and like all sin, separation from fellowship with God.

I must add God forgives.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Hallelujah! But we may still live with the consequences of our sin. All sin leads to death, whether it’s the death of relationships, trust, or in some cases literal physical death.

What can we do to avoid death? Don’t sin.
What can we do to avoid sin? Avoid desire and temptation.
How do we do that?
Be alert!

Peter wrote,

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Where are you vulnerable? We all have different desires and weaknesses. Some of you struggle with alcohol, others porn, still others food. You may battle pride and self-righteousness (that’s been one of my vices since childhood). Fear is a seductive sin when the most common command in the Bible is, “Fear not.” You know the old saying, “If you play with fire you’ll get burned.” Where are you vulnerable? The enemy knows!

Most of us are tempted in the areas of
identity (which we discussed last month), acceptance, significance, and security. Jesus was tempted by satan in each in Matthew chapter four…yet never sinned. It’s important to note temptation is not a sin—only when we give in to the temptation. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

It’s easy to think Jesus doesn’t understand pain or trials or testing or temptation…but he surely does! He was able to resist temptation because he knew his enemy, his focus was on the will of the Father, and he knew where and when he was vulnerable.

When are you vulnerable? One of my favorite acronyms, HALT, describes the four times we are especially likely to sin:


We need to be alert, especially when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I have learned to be extra alert to temptation when one or more of these describe my condition. Often more than one is present.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. This is not about trying harder. It’s not about striving to be perfect. It’s recognizing all sin leads to death, the enemy is tricky, we need to be alert, and we need to call upon the LORD for help in times of trouble. I’m grateful for Paul’s words:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

You can make excuses and rationalize sin all day long, but the truth is you are not an uncontrollable animal. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you.

My friend and coach, Bruce Terpstra, notes in his book Three Passions of the Soul,

The power of temptation is that it has appeal to your soul. Jesus was tempted in every way just like us, and yet was able not to sin (Heb 4:15). He was able to throw off the temptation because there was nothing in him that was attracted to sin. What attracts us to sin? Our souls are sick. They have been corrupted. But there is hope because we are not under the power of sin any longer. We are not bound. Sin is not our destiny. Christ has rescued us and set us free. We are free indeed.

Last week at staff meeting we were discussing a definition of a disciple. A disciple of Jesus is, quite simply, someone who looks and acts like Jesus, someone filled with the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The Holy Spirit gives self-control. Ask God for it!
We need to pray!

I realize sin is a struggle for all of us, myself include. As I’ve often said, I’m a recovering Pharisee…among other things. Sanctification—becoming like Jesus—is a lifelong process. There are successes and failures along the way. Staying alert helps. Prayer helps.

In addition, journeying with others help.
We need to do life together. We have fifteen Life Groups to help you. Celebrate Recovery gathers each Wednesday at 7 PM to help you with hurts, habits, and hang ups, which is all of us!

I know this is politically incorrect, but not only is it not all about you, you can’t do it alone. We were not created to be independent individuals. We were made for interdependent community. We all have blind spots and weaknesses which others can reveal and help us avoid. As we’ll see later in James, we are to

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

We need to confess our sins to each other.
We need to pray for each other.
We need to speak the truth in love to one another.
We need to love and encourage one another.

If you don’t have people in your life doing that, it’s no wonder you struggle with temptation and sin. I urge you to get in a Life Group. Serve on one of our ministry teams. Get connected…not because we need you to join anything, but because we need one another.

I want to say again that
God may test, but He never tempts. In fact, Pope Francis recently made a slight change to the Lord’s Prayer for Catholics to underscore this point. We commonly say, “Lead us not into temptation,” but the Catholic Church now says, “Do not let us fall into temptation.” I like that, because God never tempts. He does test, guide and protect.

James chapter one continues,

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16-17)

God may test, but never tempts. He only gives good gifts.

God is good, the giver of every good and perfect gift.

The enemy wants you to believe God is bad, that He hates you, that He is out to get you, that He could never love you. That’s a lie!

God only gives good gifts and every good and perfect gift is from God.
When you are tempted—not if—focus on the goodness of God and His character. He is the Father of lights. He never changes. He always shines. He is truth. He is sovereign and in control. He is love.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:18)

He made us His children so we can be a kind of firstfruits of His creation.

There’s a big difference between trials and temptations.

God does not tempt anyone, though He allows trials.

Satan tempts through desire which leads to sin and death.

We need to be alert, especially when we are H
ungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

We need to pray. We need to do life together.

God is good, the giver of every good and perfect gift. You are so valuable to Him, a child of the Most High God, His first fruits, the very best. You are a treasure.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Preparation: Baptism & Temptation, 7 May 2017

Preparation: Baptism & Temptation
Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus\
Mark 1:9-13

Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

Big Idea: Baptism and temptation prepared Jesus for the ministry that would follow.


One of the most rewarding parts of my childhood was Boy Scouts. As a scout, I learned about nature, how to tie knots, rappelling, wilderness survival, and so much more. The Boy Scout motto is short yet powerful: Be prepared.

Preparation. It’s one key to success in life. Anything worth doing is probably worth preparation which is why doctors devote more than a decade of their lives to education before performing their first surgery. It’s why an athlete will train for four years before entering Olympic competition. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden famously said, “When the opportunity arises, it is too late to prepare.”

What kind of preparation would be necessary to revolutionize the world? No human has had a greater impact on our planet than Jesus Christ did in the three years of His public ministry. We know almost nothing about the first three decades of His life, but Mark tells us about two significant events in Jesus’ preparation—baptism and temptation. And it leads to one truth that will blow your mind!

We’re in week three of an extensive series on The Real Jesus based upon the gospel or good news of Mark. This biography of Christ is short and sweet, the headlines, so to speak, of the life of Jesus.

In week one, we saw Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies, the Son of God, one of three Persons of the Holy Trinity, yet fully human.

Last Sunday we looked at the messenger, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin who prepared the way for Christ. Today we see Jesus encountering John—and satan.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. (Mark 1:9)

John Mark, the writer of Mark, finally brings Jesus to the stage. His message is short and sweet. Jesus comes from an obscure village in Galilee and gets baptized.

Last week we said baptism had several possible purposes in the first century. It was used for cleansing the body, publicly demonstrating one’s faith, or perhaps symbolically purifying one as they turn away from their sins. It can also represent turning toward God, not just away from evil.

Baptism doesn’t remove sin. Jesus had no sin to remove. John had been baptizing in the Jordan River in the wilderness drawing crowds from the countryside and the city of Jerusalem, preparing the way for Jesus of Nazareth who finally arrives in Mark’s narrative, baptized by His cousin, John.

Today, baptism is a ceremony we do for people who want to go public with their faith in Jesus. They enter the water and are dunked in what is symbolically a water grave, dying to their own selfish will and desires before emerging out of the water resurrected as a new creation, seeking to devote their lives to following Jesus.

Jesus is dunked by John, and the original Greek clearly puts John in the background. The spotlight is on Jesus.

Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. (Mark 1:10)

Notice the details here. First, Jesus saw heaven being torn or ripped open as He was coming out of the water. The verb for “torn open” will be used again by Mark when he describes the temple veil being torn in two from the top to the bottom. What is opened can be closed, but what is torn is more permanent. Both episodes give us a glimpse into God’s kingdom. Remember, heaven is where God is. In the Bible, it often means God’s dimension behind ordinary reality. All heaven breaks loose when Jesus is baptized! The hope of Isaiah has come to pass: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you” (Isaiah 64:1).

The Holy Spirit is then introduced, descending on Jesus “like” a dove. Can you think of any doves in the Bible? One brought an olive branch after the flood (Genesis 8). This doesn’t say a dove landed on Jesus, though. It says the Spirit descended on like a dove. It is as if the Spirit came upon Jesus, perhaps entering Him. We clearly see God the Son and God the Spirit together. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation in Genesis 1 now descends on Jesus as a sign that new creation has begun.

The dove never came back: he was looking for some place to land. He tried to land on Noah, but Noah got drunk. He tried to land on Abraham…Moses…David…Solomon…Isaiah…Jeremiah…landed on Jesus.

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

The voice of God the Father is heard. It will later be heard at the transfiguration when He says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him! (Mark 9:7). As one might expect, Jesus’ baptism was special. Heaven was torn open, the Holy Spirit came on Him like a dove, and the Father spoke, announcing Jesus as His Son.

The Trinity

One of the great mysteries of the Christian faith is the Trinity, one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They exist in community.

When we say, “God is love,” it’s not abstract. God is the community of love. The Father, Son, and Spirit interact as one. God rooted God’s communal identity in the core of our being as humans. We were made by community, for community. (Ruth Padilla Deborst)

I can’t emphasize this enough— we struggle in our individualistic culture to understand and appreciate the community of love that is the Trinity.

Artists have long depicted the Trinity with visual art. Some see a dismembered relationship between the three Persons while others see Them as a family, a community, relating to one another (Rublev).

(art examples)

How do we understand one God in three Persons? It is a mystery. No metaphor is adequate to describe God, but I like to think about an egg. The yolk, whites, and shell are all equally egg, yet distinct. We pray to the Father in the Name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.


There is a sect of Christianity which denies the Trinity. It’s called modalism. They believe in one God in one Person who changes modes, one moment being the Father and then shifting to become the Son and then suddenly appearing as the Holy Spirit. I can’t begin to tell you how troubling this belief can be, especially when considering this text. How can God be in the water, in heaven, and a dove at the same time? Although the word “trinity” does not appear in the English translations of the Bible, the concept is vivid, especially here. It’s why we sang, “Holy, Holy, Holy” last week instead of “Holy.”

The doctrine or belief in the Trinity is a beautiful picture of community, cooperation, and complementary collaboration.

John the Baptist introduces Jesus.
The Father identifies Him.
The temptation will initiate Him.


At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12-13)

There’s no mention of a baptism celebration, but rather the Holy Spirit sends Jesus into the wilderness for forty days. That’s a long time, friends. The wilderness is a harsh, rocky desert region. The wilderness was a place of testing for the people of Israel, and they often failed. Jesus never fails.

Forty is a special number in the Bible. It rained forty days and forty nights during the great flood (Genesis 7:12). The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Moses spent forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:18; 34:28). Elijah spent forty days and nights journeying to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).

Jesus has been prepared for ministry by baptism and now it’s time for testing, for a face to face encounter with satan. Have you ever encountered satan? I doubt it. He has bigger fish to fry than you and me, I believe. He does, however, have an army of demons—fallen angels—who tempt and wreak havoc on our lives and world. The Greek word peirazo can mean tempt or test. In Hebrew, satan means adversary or enemy.

And what about the wild animals? Some see them as satan’s allies in contrast to the angels that attend to Jesus. Some see an allusion to Psalm 91:11-13.

For he will command his angels concerning you 
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent. (Psalm 91:11-13)

I like animals, but not necessarily “wild” animals. They don’t usually make good pets!

Matthew and Luke tell us more about the temptation but Mark simply gives us an image of Jesus and satan, angels and wild animals, good and evil. It will be a constant theme in the book…and all of human history.

Jesus has been baptized and tested. He’s prepared and next week we’ll see Jesus’ ministry begin.

One More Thing

Occasionally I come across as reading so profound it’s not worth paraphrasing; it simply needs to be read. Listen to N.T. Wright:

It happens all the time, in families, businesses, all over. Many children grow up in our world who have never had a father say to them (either in words, in looks, or in hugs), ‘You are my dear child’, let alone, ‘I’m pleased with you.’ In the Western world, even those fathers who think this in their hearts are often too tongue-tied or embarrassed to tell their children how delighted they are with them. Many, alas, go by the completely opposite route: angry voices, bitter rejection, the slamming of doors. 

The whole Christian gospel could be summed up in this point: that when the living God looks at us, at every baptized and believing Christian
, he says to us what he said to Jesus on that day. He sees us, not as we are in ourselves, but as we are in Jesus Christ. It sometimes seems impossible, especially to people who have never had this kind of support from their earthly parents, but it’s true: God looks at us, and says, ‘You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you.’ Try reading that sentence slowly, with your own name at the start, and reflect quietly on God saying that to you, both at your baptism and every day since.

How does this come about? It will take the whole story, particularly Jesus’ death and resurrection, to explain. But this is what the Christian gospel is all about.

It is true for one simple but very profound reason: Jesus is the Messiah, and 
the Messiah represents his people. What is true of him is true of them. The word ‘Messiah’ means ‘the anointed one’; and this story tells how Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, marked out as God’s son. The Messiah is called ‘God’s son’ in a few biblical passages, including the one that the heavenly voice seems to be echoing here (Psalm 2.7). Though the early Christians realized quite quickly that Jesus was God’s son in an even deeper sense, they clung on to his messiahship for dear life. It was because Jesus was and is Messiah that God said to them, as he does to us today, what he said to Jesus at his baptism. And without that word from God all we often hear, in our mind’s ear, is doors being slammed.

N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) Westminster John Knox Press; bold are my highlights

Your Team

How can that be? Let me tell you a story about two men named Chris—Coghlan and Bryant. Last fall, they both played for the Chicago Cubs who finally won the World Series. Kris Bryant is arguably the best player on the team. He hit two home runs during the World Series and was the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Chris Coghlan batted three times in the World Series, struck out twice, and never made it to first base. There’s a tradition in baseball where every player on the championship team gets a diamond-covered ring worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Every player gets the same ring, whether they are superstars or bench-warmers.

That’s how I like to think about what it means for us to be “in Christ,” a phrase used more than a dozen times in the book of Ephesians to describe followers of Jesus. We are on His team, we wear His uniform. The Chicago Cubs are World Champions which means every player on the team is equally a World Champion. When we are in Christ, everything the Father says about Jesus He says about us.

Author Bob Goff said,
"On the day of your worst screw-up, Jesus sees you and still calls you 'Beloved'!"

That’s good news, friends. That’s great news!

His baptism and temptation were preparation for a greater test…and a greater victory. Today is a great day to reflect upon your own journey, your own baptism if you’ve followed Jesus’ command to go public with your faith, something you can do next Sunday if you haven’t. It’s a great day to reflect upon your own temptations—those you overcame and those tests you failed. Jesus’ body was pierced and broken on the cross, His blood was poured out to offer forgiveness of your sins; past, present, and future. Hallelujah! Because of Jesus, the Father says, “You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you."

Credits: some ideas from Matt Carter (Austin Stone Community Church), Warren Wiersbe, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Covenant & Kingdom: Temptation, 28 September 2014

    Matthew 4:1-11

    Big Idea: Jesus was tempted just like us—and He overcame it as we can by remembering who and Whose we are.


    In previous weeks we said the Bible is a big book. It’s actually a library of 66 books. We usually study it verse-by-verse, like looking through a microscope. This series will look at it through a telescope, examining the big idea of the Bible.

    Covenant and Kingdom are woven throughout the Scriptures like a
    double helix is woven in DNA.

    Covenant is a sacred treaty in which two parties become one. In ancient times, this always involved the shedding of blood by an animal to imply consequences for failure to fulfill the agreement.

    God made a covenant with Abram, promising blessings to him and his offspring in order for them to bless the world.

    Covenant is about relationship. Being. Invitation.
    Kingdom is about responsibility. Doing. Challenge.

    Life is filled with tension between being and doing, relationship and responsibility, being invited into relationship with God while also being challenged to represent Him and bless the world.

    As we look at this idea of challenge, of kingdom, of doing God’s work in the world we are going to look at the most important character in the Bible—Jesus.

    The story of the temptation of Jesus is familiar to many. After 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, Jesus refuses satan three times. If you’re like me, you may have thought it was easy for Jesus to stand up to temptation because He was God. However, He set aside the God-stuff when He came to earth in order to truly become one of us, to understand our struggles. In fact, Jesus giving in to temptation and seizing superpowers is exactly what satan wanted.

    Jesus is able to represent the Father, the King, well because He understood His identity. He knew who He was.

    Satan repeats one phrase: “IF you are the Son of God.” Specifically, he attacks Jesus in three areas:

    turn stones into bread
    prove God’s protection by jumping from the Temple
    worship me and receive the kingdoms of the world

    What is your greatest temptation? What is your most common sin? Chances are, you are bombarded by one, two, or all three of these temptations.


    Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:1-3)

    Here we see one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Jesus did not eat for 40 days and was hungry. Surprise!

    We all have appetites—for food, love, sleep, purpose…Cravings are not necessarily wrong. In fact, without some—like food—we would die. The issue is how we respond to our desires. It often involves control. We question whether God can be trusted.

    Jesus knew God could be trusted and did not seize control in the situation. He was obedient to the Father who called Him into the wilderness for an essential season of prayer prior to selecting twelve disciples. He knew God was good. The Father could be trusted.

    What do you crave? Food? Alcohol? A perfect body? Sex? Comfort? Security? Facebook?

    There are not all bad, but if they control you, they become your idol, your god.

    Perhaps you’ve tried unsuccessfully to rid yourself of addiction. The early church fathers used to say that if you say no to one appetite, you can say no to something else. Dallas Willard said it this way: “Do the things you can so you can do the things you can’t.” Use your will to give up something you can control so God’s Spirit will give you the power over the other.

    One example of this is Lent, 40 days of saying no to an appetite to concentrate on your identity as a child of God.

    To be honest, addictions can be nasty. It’s not as simple as giving up meat for 40 days in order to destroy all cravings. It’s a step, but others may be necessary, including support groups, accountability, and prayer.

    Jesus was tempted, and He responded with Scripture.

    Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:4)

    Jesus had spiritual food upon which He was nourished. He knew the truth and it set Him free.


    Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

    “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” (Matthew 4:5-6)

    Now satan gets nasty. He starts misusing the Bible. Don’t miss this! People often flippantly say, “The Bible says…” What is the context? What did it originally mean? What does it mean today? You can’t pick and choose verses any more than you can pick and choose ingredients in a recipe (oops, I forgot the sugar in the cookies!!!).

    Our identity must come from somewhere outside of us. We are prone to seek the approval of others. Instead of waiting to hear the Father say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant,” we want to be affirmed now.

    Do people think I’m smart?
    Do people think I’m pretty or handsome?
    Do people think I’m a good parent?
    Do people think I’m a good worker?
    Do people like me?
    Am I popular?

    Approval can be an addiction. The crazy thing is often the people we want to affirm us are only temporarily in our lives. We are tempted to base our value on people that won’t even be in our lives in a few years…or maybe months.

    What if we lived for an audience of One?

    I struggle with this. I want people to like me. I want you to like me! I want to do things that make you happy…so you will like me! I want this sermon to be great so you’ll think I’m a great preacher and pastor! I’ve been tempted to ignore tough passages of the Bible, speaking only about things that will make you feel good.

    But ultimately I have to answer to God. He loves me. He accepts me. I’ve been rejected many times by people—and it always hurts. The voice that really matters is the Father’s voice, and Jesus understood that.

    Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Matthew 4:7)

    Jesus did not need to impress satan or win his approval. He was confident in His identity as the Son of the Most High God.


    Success. It has been one of the most daunting words for me. Defining success has been a decades-long struggle. I want to be successful. I want to make a difference in this world. I want to do great things for God…and sometimes for my own glory!

    Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)

    What is success? Achieving goals? Knowing and doing what God tells you. Sometimes we are obedient and look like failures. The Bible is filled with such stories, but they continued to believe God is good and faithful.

    God calls us to be faithful and obedient which does not always look like success in the eyes of the world that celebrates big, popular, and excellent.

    I’m not saying winning or success is necessarily wrong, but it can be if it is the source of our identity. If your success in life is tied to your performance, something’s wrong—and for so many this is the case…especially artists. As an artist, I can say this! If I write a song and you don’t like it, I’m tempted to think you are rejecting me, which is idolatry. Some athletes believe if they don’t win, they are…losers—not in a game, but life. When we seek to win for our glory, we have made ourselves lord rather than God. We’ve worshipped the created rather than the Creator.

    I’m a very competitive person. A few years ago on an elder retreat we had some competitive games of doubles ping pong. It was not televised on ESPN, but there were some close games. Unbeknownst to the others, my team was winning every game, and I was quite pleased…until my team lost. I hid it, but I was inappropriately overjoyed during the victories and agonized in the defeat. When we were done, I confessed my hidden sin to the others, exposing my wicked, prideful heart.

    Perhaps the most obvious sign of this is the comparison game. Someone recently said all reality TV is designed to either make us feel good about ourselves or bad about ourselves as we compare ourselves to the winners and losers.

    I’m probably most insecure about other pastors, especially pastors of large churches that have written books and speak at conferences. A part of me secretly—well, not now!—wants to be a Christian celebrity, be invited to speak in front of large crowds, and “do great things for God.” Do you see the shadow motive? God wants us to be involved in His mission on earth, but He wants us to serve Him rather than the other way around. Our motives are critical, though there is no such thing as completely pure motives!

    Would you like a remedy? Try this:
    choose to lose.

    If an argument is going a certain way―choose not to have the last word. Lose the argument.
    Choose relational harmony over winning an argument.
    If youʼre playing golf or a board game or basketball―make the point of playing to bless your opponent and donʼt care if you win. Play for fun.
    Go above and beyond at work but donʼt let anyone know. Chose to lose the opportunity to get credit for extra work.
    Another way you can address this issue is to anonymously give—money, time, expertise. Give without seeking credit or reward. The Father is watching!
    The Father was watching Jesus in the wilderness…with approval.

    Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” (Matthew 4:10)

    Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:11)

    We’re not exactly sure what those final five words mean, but they’re pretty cool! Jesus passed the test. His preparation to begin His public ministry was complete, at least the wilderness part. He knew who He was. He had just heard the Father say at His baptism, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

    Luke’s gospel account of the temptation of Christ ends with these words:

    When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13)

    Jesus passed this test, but it was hardly the end of temptation. He experienced every day of His life as we do.

    So What?

    Where you are being tempted. Is it your appetite? Your ambition? Affirmation? What way do you need to intentionally press into your identity as Godʼs child?
    Your Daddy loves you. He’s nuts about you! He is so near you. He believes in you. He’s proud of you. Don’t forget Whose you are. You are a King’s kid!
    Is there any desire in you for the accolades of men and women around you?

    If so, take the words of the Father spoken over Jesus in the gospels and substitute your name for Jesus and allows those words to sink into your heart. 

    The desire of approval is the commitment to remove shame. Shame in the world's eyes is removed by acclaim. We long for things that shout down the voice of shame. What is the alternative to acclaim for shame? Allowing the Word of God to speak and give faith.

    "You are my son/daughter and I love you and I'm proud of you.” If He said it over Jesus it is true of us. 

    “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ (Matthew 6:9-13)

    appetite: give us this day our daily bread
    affirmation: lead us not into temptation
    ambition: Yours is the kingdom, not mine


    Ideas for this series taken from book of the same title by Mike Breen and 3DMovements.com.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    We Are Victorious, 13 April 2014

    Big Idea: We are victorious!


    Whether you know it or not, we are at war. It is not a war with Russia or North Korea or Iran—though that could be in our nation’s future. It is not one of the estimated 14,500 wars that have been fought in the past 5300 years (3600 BC to the present). We are at war with a real enemy, satan and demons. Ever since satan’s coup attempt to overthrow God failed, he’s been seeking every opportunity to destroy us.

    C.S. Lewis wrote “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight” (C.S. Lewis,
    The Screwtape Letters). 

    Many Christians ignore satan and demons. In fact, more people believe in angels than demons. Satan is not an impersonal force or a guy in a red suit with a pitchfork! At the same time, we must not give him too much credit. He is not God. He is powerful but not all-powerful.

    How do I know satan is real? Pick up a newspaper. Check out CNN.com. Open your eyes and ears! Death and decay is all around. Homelessness, abuse, divorce, murder, violence, injustice, starvation, slavery, pride, self-righteous religion…this world is messed up!

    A few weeks ago I spoke with the father of my friend who died from cancer. He told me never before has he felt death as an enemy. It’s not right! Present reality is a far cry from the Paradise God created for Adam and Eve to enjoy. Ever since sin entered the world through satan’s temptation we have been surrounded by pain, depravity and brokenness.

    Often people talk about spiritual warfare in either a creepy or corny way. They get spooked about demons or think the armor of God is a costume for kids to wear on Halloween. Because satan masquerades as an angel of light, spiritual warfare is often subtle—so much so that more people believe in angels than demons, God than satan. Yet something has to account for the brokenness, pain, suffering and death we are exposed to every day on this planet that God originally called good.

    After spending more than five chapters telling the early church about its identity in Christ and offering instructions for Godly living he concludes

    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (10-13)

    We are to be strong not in our strength or wisdom or experience or knowledge but in the Lord and in His mighty power. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). “Be strong” literally means “be strengthened.” The battle is the Lord’s, but we are not to merely hide. The devil is real and he is scheming. He is smart and crafty. He destroyed Job. He tempted Jesus. He plots destruction. The greater your passion for Jesus and the Kingdom of God, the greater threat you are to the enemy.

    Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth…

    For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

    Part of the reason people are unaware of the battle is it often rages in our minds. Paul continues…

    We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

    Paul says that battle is not against flesh and blood. People are not the enemy. Atheists or other non-Christians are not the enemy. They are merely deceived pawns of the enemy. The enemy is a spiritual creature that tempts humans to sin. There can be no greater contrast between the two sides of the spiritual battle.

    God loves you.
    Satan hates you.

    God is life.
    Satan is death.

    God is true.
    Satan is the father of lies.

    God is light.
    Satan masquerades as light.

    God is for you.
    Satan is against you.

    God forgives sin.
    Satan tempts us to sin and then accuses us of doing it.

    Why, then, are we surprised when trouble enters the lives of Christians?!

    We are at war and must know our enemy, be prepared to fight and be ready to stand.

    Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (14-17)

    belt of truth
    (against the father of lies)

    We are to have the truth wrapped around us. If you don’t have your belt, you can lose your pants! Keep it on!

    breastplate of righteousness
    (say no to sin and yes to righteousness)

    The breastplate is defense for the front torso and vital organs. It was often composed of a solid piece of metal, but it could also contain many small pieces that were sewn to leather or cloth that overlapped much like the scales of a fish. These scales could number as many as 700 to 1,000 per “coat.” When the sun shone directly on the armor, it could become very hot. So to avoid being burnt, or even pinched, by the moving metal plates, the soldiers always wore a sturdy robe under the armor. We are to wear the robe of Jesus’ righteousness.

    The breastplate covered the front, but not the back. We are to stand firm and never retreat, never run away, never surrender.

    boots of peace
    (Jesus is the Prince of peace, our most powerful weapon)

    Keep your boots on! Soldiers wear them to bed, always ready for battle.

    shield of faith
    (an internal conviction that leads to an external action)

    The shield was the first line of defense for a warrior. It could protect the entire body when the soldier crouched down. Jesus’ blood is our first defense against satan’s arrows of deception, temptation, and accusation. When temptation lodges in our body, it’s too late. We must be alert, anticipating the schemes of the enemy that will entice us toward greed, lust, envy, rage, discouragement, fear, and worry.

    helmet of salvation
    (helmets guard the mind; never forget your salvation)

    The mind controls the body. It is our most vital organ. All of our actions begin in our mind. What do you think? What do you feel? Who do you think you are?!

    The sword of the Spirit.
    The other tools shield and protect. The sword is the weapon. It is what we use to fight. The Word of God is truth. It is offensive to the lies of the world. It spreads truth and sets captives free.

    The sword of God’s Word will give the beast of Revelation 13 a deadly wound (13:3, 14).

    Some have called the two edges of the double-edged sword the Old and New Testaments. It is used against the enemy and for personal use. The Bible is a practical tool—like a Swiss Army Knife—that can be used for every area of life.

    And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (18)

    Communication is essential in any battle. We need to know what our Commander is saying. We need to listen for His voice.

    Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians by saying

    Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (19-20)

    We must pray for God to give us words to declare the Gospel, the good news, in word and deed.

    Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. (21-22)

    This is an interesting note as Paul sends Tychicus to Ephesus. Finally…

    Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (23-24)




    We have come to the conclusion of the book of Ephesians, this incredible book written to instruct us on how to know and live out our identity. Paul arguably saved the best for last, reminding believers that we are not to lounge around in comfort and luxury, but instead be engaged in the battle that has been raging since the beginning of time, a battle that will someday end with a victorious God and a defeated enemy. We caught a preview of this defeat at the cross, a moment we will remember this Friday. It is called “Good Friday” because

    “Having disarmed principalities and powers, Jesus made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

    Through sin, we all surrendered to satan and were taken as captives in war. Though we were legally satan’s possession because of our debt to him through our sin, Jesus redeemed us through his victory on the cross. His final words from the cross, “It is finished,” declared our liberation. And his resurrection to life signifies His complete victory over Satan, sin, and death in the life of all believers.

    In Christ, we are forgiven.
    In Christ, we are clean.
    In Christ, our captivity has been replaced with a new identity.

    Who do you think you are? If you love and follow Jesus, you have a new identity in Christ. serve him, follow him, and call him your Lord and Savior. There’s good news: you have a new identity…in Christ. That means we are…

    We are in Christ
    We are saints
    We are blessed
    We are appreciated
    We are saved
    We are reconciled
    We are included
    We are heard
    We are gifted
    We are new
    We are forgiven
    We are adopted
    We are loved
    We are rewarded
    We are victorious

    Grace and peace to you…in Christ.


    Some ideas from

    Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
    GLO Bible
    J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Temptation, 17 July 2011

    Big Idea: James provides encouragement to those facing temptation.

    Last week we began our current series, PrACTical Christianity, a study of the book of James. We saw how James was written by Jesus’ half-brother who led the Church in Jerusalem. We also said this is one of, if not, the most practical books in the Bible. The messages are fairly universal and relevant 2000 years later.

    The focus of much of the first chapter of James is the Greek word
    peirasmo/ß, (peirasmos) which means trial or test…or temptation. James tells us to “consider it pure joy…whenever we face trials of many kinds” because they help us develop perseverance, grow, and mature. Although that’s not always much consolation in the midst of trials, it is encouraging to know that they serve a purpose, are meant for our ultimate good, and that God truly is in control, especially when we aren’t (which is always!).

    Temptation began…in the Garden of Eden as Adam and Eve were tempted by satan to disobey God. Our enemy is real…and real crafty. Satan has no power to create, but he loves to distort and destroy God’s creation, including us.

    It is important to realize that temptation is not sin. Many people feel guilty when they are tempted, yet it is possible to be tempted and not sin. Jesus proved this.

    For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

    I love that verse! How many of you struggle with temptation? Jesus understands! He really does. He did not have a superpower sin shield that kept him from temptation. He “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”

    When you are tempted, pray! Jesus understands!

    When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; (James 1:13)

    The Greek word for temptation is…
    peira¿zw, (peirazoœ). This is the same root as “trial” that we examined last week, but it has the emphasis of a trap. “The difference between a test and a temptation is found in the tester’s motivations and expectations; the devil tempts that the believer might fail God’s standards of faith and so sin; God tests that he might determine and sharpen true character, with no focus on making the believer fail.” (NIV Greek Dictionary)

    What can we learn about God in this verse?

    • - God cannot be tempted
    • - God does not tempt; He tests us, but He does not lead us toward sin
    • - God is holy; nothing about sin is appealing to God

    Who tempts? The devil or satan.

    I found this helpful chart that shows the distinctions between God’s discipline, God-ordained trials, and God-allowed temptations (www.Acts 17-11.com).




    The Lord

    God, World, Satan
    The Devil



    Following God
    Pride or Exposure


    Fits Crime

    Proves Faith
    Leads Astray




    DO NOT

    Make Light of

    Shrink Back
    Fall into


    We are Sons

    His Name is in Us
    The Flesh is Weak


    Fear and Holiness

    Death and Glory
    Sin or Victory

    When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (James 1:13-14)

    Oswald Chambers said, "Until we are born again, [this is] the only temptation we understand. But by regeneration we are lifted into another realm where we face the kind of temptations Our Lord faced... Satan does not tempt us to do wrong things, he tempts us in order to make us lose... the possibility of being of value to God... Temptation is a suggested short-cut to the realization of the highest at which I aim--not at what I understand as evil, but towards what I understand as good... [At this point Satan] does not come along the line of tempting us to sin, but on the line of shifting the point of view, and only the Spirit of God can reveal this as a temptation of the devil."

    Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (1:15)

    Did you notice the progression?


    Years ago a famous televangelist was caught, uh, with his pants down. I remember him saying, “I never thought it could happen to me.” That was his problem. He thought he was above the possibility of sin.

    The crazy thing is that we all have healthy, God-given desires. Again, it’s satan that distorts those desires or gets us to seek their fulfillment in inappropriate ways.

    Think about Adam and Eve. Did they need to eat? Yes. The question was not should they eat, but should they eat from
    that tree.

    People don’t just wake up one day and do crazy things. Our prisons are not filled with people who randomly decided to kill or steal. There was a desire that grew into a sin and all sin ultimately leads to…death.

    Romans 6:23 clearly affirms this.

    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    We are in the midst of a cosmic war between God and satan, good and evil.

    C.S. Lewis: "No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means--the only complete realist."

    Two Types of Sin

    Perhaps you are feeling pretty good right now thinking you’ve resisted temptation, after all, you’ve never killed anyone! There are sins of commission—wrongful things that we commit or do—and sins of omission—things that we should do that we don’t. Honestly, that’s where I get in the most trouble. God draws me to prayer, yet I choose to ignore him and talk to a friend on the phone. He draws me to read the Bible, yet I choose to read blogs online. He draws me to give generously to others, yet I choose to spend money on myself.

    And how does that sin lead to death? It kills the potential for a deeper relationship with God.

    Perhaps you are feeling pretty bad right now thinking about how you’ve messed up. Here’s the good news!

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

    Because Jesus endured temptation without sinning, His death on the cross allows Him to forgive us from ALL unrighteousness. Hallelujah!


    When tempted, we should pray. Jesus knows, understands, and the Holy Spirit can fill us and help us in our struggle.

    Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. (Matthew 26:41)
    Understand that you’re not alone in being tempted. Everyone in this room faces it daily.
    Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

    And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:8-10)

    It’s so easy to become discouraged as we battle with sin, but don’t give up. Don’t ever give up! It’s worth the fight. It’s literally a fight for life, the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.

    We can also share our struggles with one another, encouraging one another when we have gained victory and even when we’ve blown it.

    Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

    The wisdom of Proverbs says

    As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)


    Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7b)

    You can listen to the podcast here.